Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Deerskin Ritual Costume: First Steps

Warning: This post contains a picture of a deerskin project
"in progress," which may be disturbing to some viewers.

Over the past week my family, partner and I went deer hunting, something I have done since I was 12 excepting a seven year period I was a vegetarian and a couple years I didn't due to other time commitments.  My Pagan path has a lot of spirituality based on animal and plant spirits, and one thing I've wanted to have for years is a ritual costume made out of a full whitetail deer skin, as these animals are very spiritually important to me as a major source of food and other things.  I was greatly inspired by Lupa's artwork made from animal pelts and other parts, as well as the cave painting "The Sorcerer" which may depict somebody in a deer pelt costume.

Try as I might, I didn't get a deer.  In fact, it was a pretty bad year for us, but my brother did get a buck fawn.  My dad would be doing the initial skinning for butchering, and I explained that I had something I wanted to make with the pelt and that I want the face, ears, and tail.

Here's where I would like to show some compassion, as I know a lot of you probably wouldn't appreciate the type of picture I have for the beginning stages of this costume.  Keep in mind that although it's gruesome looking, I was there when this deer was shot and can vouch for him having been dispatched quickly by a compassionate person.  To hearken back to what I would have said when I was still a vegetarian, "if you eat storebought meat you have no business being upset by this, if you don't you should probably focus on the crimes of the former."  On a spiritual note, keep in mind that my doing this is meant to be a respectful action in which this animal's life will continue on a spiritual plane rather than just eating the good parts and throwing away the rest.

If you're viewing this post on the main page, you can see the picture by clicking on the jump link below.

Anyway, when I got to my parents' house on the day the deer was to be butchered, my dad told me he "couldn't get the face."  I was upset until I learned he had merely left the whole head on the pelt, so I took things into my own hands, which goes down in history as one of the most disgusting things I've ever done.  The only problem was the ears... so full of thick cartilage and with such thin skin, when I tried pulling them out from behind I succeeded in yanking a good chunk of skin off.  I think it'll work though.


To the right is what I wound up with.  The legs unfortunately were cut off during butchering, but the face and tail are intact along with enough ear on each side to work with.  The pelt is folded; the surface the head is resting on the inside of the cape of the pelt, just for some comparison.

I salted the hide which is currently in my basement hanging from the staircase.  In a couple days it'll be time for the tanning stage, which should take I believe five days?  I'll have to revisit my instructions for that.

Then it'll be time to shape out the head.  I'm thinking something to make the ears stick out more naturally and shaping the face to protrude.

I've been playing with the idea of affixing antlers to it.  I do have a lot of antlers, but again, this is a small buck whose antlers didn't push past the skin, so technically if you count that part of the pelt it already has antlers.  One option is to create a separate antler headdress using a rack I have and then just wearing the two pieces at the same time if I feel I need something with bigger antlers.

Figuring out how to get it to be "wearable" might be a bit complicated without the legs.  I have some scrap deerskin I got at a fur trapping rendezvous reenactment that I could make into arm and waist straps, so that's what I'm working with now.

So far this is shaping up to be an interesting and fulfilling project.  I'm really crossing my fingers I don't fuck up the tanning process.